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Global trends in vocational education and training


The vocational education and training sector is at the frontline of Australia’s response to major global challenges. An effective vocational education and training sector will be required to increase participation in the workforce, help companies exploit new technologies, and drive productivity improvements across the economy. The dividends are significant for institutions and economies that respond early and effectively.


The vocational education and training sector is at the frontline of Australia’s response to major global challenges. Superficially, the outlook for vocational education and training providers is bright: the focus on labour market issues has rarely been sharper and the importance of industry connections is more valuable than ever. In addition, the increased focus on having all students – from schoolchildren to university graduates – ‘job ready’ will act as a significant driver of demand.


However, the changing skills market (for supply and demand) has burdened providers with added complexity, risk and uncertainty. Industry growth projections are no longer linear, funding is less certain, students are more demanding, and competition is fiercer.


Three major challenges face vocational education and training providers in Australia and globally:

  1. a changing and broadening learner base

  2. increased competition from other providers

  3. weaker signals of demand from industry

Seven trends


A broad range of macro and lower-level factors – spanning policy and government, the economy, society and technology – drive trends in vocational education and training.


The assessment of global trends draws heavily on overseas case studies and the latest policy thinking and research. The intent was to identify ‘trends’ in action rather than conduct a theoretical assessment of ideas that may or may not come to fruition. This investigation has distilled seven global trends in the vocational education and training sector, based on their impact on the sector generally and their potential applicability to Australia. Each trend is presented with a real-world example.



1. Students are coming into vocational education at an earlier age and later in life

2. The international vocational training market is moving offshore

3. Student retention is the new battleground

4. Delivery is now multi-channel and immersive

5. New funding models and cost-shifting approaches are emerging to meet infrastructure requirements

6. New industry partnerships are driving broader, deeper and more tailored training

7. Movement between education sectors is bringing old issues to boiling point





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